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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Dutch eco-dome could soon find a home in the Emirates

Creating a micro-climate in super-efficient buildings could stem draining air conditioning costs

Shaded Dome: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies
Shaded Dome: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies

An eco-dome that channels a cool micro-climate inside could be the answer to highly inefficient buildings kept cool with energy-draining airconditioning systems.

The way forward to a sustainable future, according to The Netherlands, is through a new innovative concept it calls the Shaded Dome.

Designed by Royal HaskoningDHV, ZJA Zwarts and Jansma Architects and Poly-Ned, the structure is a semi-permanent facility, comprised of an air-supported, environmentally-controlled dome, in which a pleasant microclimate is created.

“We were part of a tender in 2014 with the Dubai Sports Council for a stadium,” said Jos van de Loo, director of business development at Shaded Dome Technologies and Royal HaskoningDHV.

“The sustainability requirements we saw there were enormous.”

The same applied when the team visited Abu Dhabi.

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“There were many cooling machines and it's not sustainable as they need a lot of power,” he said. “In the Middle East, many events are planned so we have to develop something which serves this purpose, and we can build facilities which can create a very nice climate in desert-like countries.”

The company deliver 30,000 projects every year worldwide, with 85 people working in their offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

It delivers many projects for multinationals, as well as Abu Dhabi International Airport where it was heavily involved in a master planning and consulting for its extension. It also built a 70-metre pedestrian bridge at the World Trade Centre in Dubai.

The dome is positioned under a tent layer, supported by a steel cable structure. This passive design element provides the dome with protection from often-demanding climatological conditions, like for instance solar radiation, wind, high air temperature, humidity and precipitation.

“It’s a proven concept because the sun shade roof isn’t a new concept, it exists in small tent constructions,” said Edwin Molenaar, owner of Poly-Ned. “We have been specialised in manufacturing with fabric materials and with textile architecture for the past 40 years in air domes, which we have in Saudi Arabia, and textile structures.”

Family Entertainment centre: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies
Family Entertainment centre: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies

The facility uses 66 per cent less energy compared a single layer structure and reduces co2 emissions by 415 tonnes a year, for a 5,000sqm dome. “It’s not a permanent building but we’re delivering a project with a lifetime of 30 years,” Mr van de Loo said.

“In a desert-like climate of more than 40C, you can create, with limited energy consumption, a pleasant indoor climate, up to the quality of a museum, and it protects the inside from high-demanding weather conditions so it’s unique.”

Shaded Dome: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies
Shaded Dome: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies

Its assembly time is short – one week – with sizes that vary from 1,000sqm to 24,000sqm. The operational cost is also low, which gives it a competitive advantage to permanent buildings.

“The most sustainable way of creating a building is not to build it,” he said. “And with this, for the Dubai Expo 2020, you can use it for half a year, dismantle it and use it for other purposes. We also plan, in the future, to integrate PV solar cells in such a way that it generates sufficient energy to run the cooling machines.”

The company is currently in discussions with the Dubai Expo team for a potential display during the event, as many temporary facilities are planned.

“Their objective is to create as many energy-friendly facilities as possible,” he added. “We are also testing a prototype at a military airbase where it can be used as a base camp in desert-like climates like in Mali and Afghanistan.”

Defensie Fieldbase: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies
Defense Fieldbase: Image by Shaded Dome Technologies

The dome is being tested to withstand hits from rockets and grenades. Although initially created for sporting events, the company has received requests for temporary airport terminals, museums, event locations and family entertainment centres where people can exercise. Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi has also expressed interest.

Once used, the PVC membranes are fully recyclable and will be transformed into organic materials, such as kenaf. “The main objective is to have a 100 per cent autarkic shaded dome for all kinds of extreme weather,” Mr van der Loo said.

From exhibitions to the battlefield

In 2016, the Shaded Dome was awarded with the 'De Vernufteling' people's choice award, an annual prize by the Dutch Association of Consulting Engineers and the Royal Netherlands Society of Engineers for the most innovative project by a Dutch engineering firm.

It was assigned by the Dutch Ministry of Defence to modify the Shaded Dome to make it suitable for ballistic protection. Royal HaskoningDHV, one of the companies which designed the dome, is an independent international engineering and project management consultancy, leading the way in sustainable development and innovation.

It is driving positive change through innovation and technology, helping use resources more efficiently.

It aims to minimise the impact on the environment by leading by example in its projects in sustainable development and innovation, to become part of the solution to a more sustainable society now and into the future.